Liam Farrell - Come out of the shed, it is time for surgery

It was a pathetic, wretched sight. He was a shambling, slobbering wreck, only a pale shadow of the fine upstanding man he used to be. We'd been searching for him for a while, but he was ratted out by his neighbours and we eventually found him cowering in a garden shed, hiding behind the lobelias.

'We were worried about you,' I said. 'We looked everywhere.'

'No,' he pleaded. 'Leave me alone; I can't go out there, I can't take it anymore. You can't make me.'

It's tough to watch a grown man crying and I recalled the words of Oscar Wilde: 'One would have to have a heart of stone to read of the death of Little Nell without laughing.'

'Come on out,' I said, in a reassuring tone, deftly confiscating the bottle. 'You'll be fine, everything will be all right.'

But my receptionist was made of sterner stuff and obviously unhappy with my softly-softly approach.

'I'm sorry, doctor,' she told him firmly. 'But the patients are waiting; your surgery should have started 15 minutes ago.'

I helped him to his feet.

'It won't be so bad,' I said. 'Just sit there and let the music of humanity wash over you; bask in the warmth of the familiar soothing litany of complaints.

'Keep nodding your head, agree with everything and sign anything put in front of you.'

My words of comfort did not help, and instead seemed to make him worse. He started to shake with fear and his stare became even crazier, his eyes bugging out.

He grabbed my hand.

'You'll do it,' he said. 'You'll do it, won't you? You've always been a good friend, a loyal and trustworthy colleague.'

This showed how disoriented he had become; being called a loyal and trustworthy colleague is not a compliment, it just means we'll stab you in the front, going round the back is too much trouble and we want you to know who wields the dagger.

'Nothing would make me happier than to step into your shoes and allow you to sail merrily off into the sunset,' I said, before making the traditional medical hand-washing gesture, which apparently dates back to Pontius Pilate: 'But I'm off duty.'


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